WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An Iranian and four people from Singapore have been charged by a U.S. grand jury with smuggling thousands of radio transmitters to Iran, some later found in bombs in Iraq, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday.
The five were indicted on charges that they evaded U.S. export control laws by buying 6,000 of the transmitters from a Minnesota company and shipping them via Singapore to Iran, where most U.S. companies are restricted from doing business.
The devices, which can be used for long-range wireless data transmissions, were bought between June 2007 and February 2008 under the pretense that they would be used to set up wireless networks in commercial offices, the Justice Department said.
The indictment, filed in federal court and unsealed on Tuesday, said the transmitters were sent to Iran and that U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq had found at least 16 of them in unexploded improvised explosive devices (IEDs) between May 2008 and July 2010.
The transmitter, when used with a particular antenna, can send a signal from as far away as 40 miles, enabling someone to remotely detonate a bomb, according to the Justice Department.
Such bombs have been particularly deadly against military forces in Iraq, causing scores of casualties and injuries. U.S. officials have previously accused Iran of meddling in Iraq, charges that Tehran has denied.
The Iranian accused of being at the heart of the plot, Hossein Larijani, is not in custody. He ran Opto Electronics, based in Singapore, and Paya Electronics Complex in Iran, both of which were also charged in the indictment.
Authorities in Singapore on Monday arrested four of its citizens at the request of U.S. authorities, who are seeking their extradition. They were Wong Yuh Lan, Lim Yong Nam, Lim Kow Seng, and Hia Soo Gan Benson.
Also charged were two other Singaporean companies: NEL Electronics Pte Ltd, which was run by Nam; and Corezing International Pte Ltd, where Seng and Hia worked. Wong worked for Larijani’s company Opto.
Seng, Hia and their company Corezing were also charged on a separate fraud conspiracy over the illegal export of two kinds of military antennae from the United States without a license from the U.S. State Department. They can be used in fighter jets, according to the Justice Department.
Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington, editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Todd Eastham